This incredible rum cake recipe is made using from scratch ingredients (no mixes!) and is then SOAKED in a dark rum butter syrup that keeps it incredibly moist, rich and bursting with rum flavor. While it’s perfect for serving all year, this rum-soaked cake will be an absolute show stopper at holiday gatherings.
Several years ago, I had the pleasure of visiting Bermuda. We were lucky enough to stay at a gorgeous resort called The Reefs, with one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen.
The beach had white sand and turquoise water that was so clear I could see schools of fish swimming by my legs. This is probably Too Much Information, but that beach has become my “QUICK, FIND A HAPPY PLACE” location when I’m at the dentist.
Anyway, I don’t remember being especially blown away by the cuisine on that trip, even after researching where and what to eat. That’s probably because, with a few notable exceptions, almost everything in Bermuda is imported. However, the one thing I remember instantly falling in love with was Bermuda Rum Cake.
Rum cake is basically pound cake that’s been drenched in a rich, buttery rum syrup. It’s addicting, and I’ve wanted to make it at home ever since.
Imagine my surprise when most of the online recipes included either yellow cake mix and/or pudding mix! Even one of my most trusted stand-by sites for when I don’t know how to make certain baked goods from scratch, King Arthur Flour, has a rum cake using boxed pudding mix. Huh. Maybe that’s just traditional?
I mean, I have a yellow cake recipe that includes a rant about why homemade cakes are so much better than box mix cakes. Why would I use one here?
How to Make Rum Cake From Scratch
I try to avoid using boxed mixes; it’s a personal preference. There’s only one time I’ve caved, and that’s when I recreated my grandmother’s chocolate pistachio cake. Her recipe used boxed cake mix, pudding mix AND chocolate syrup, and I failed in my attempts to recreate the pistachio flavor until I added the pudding mix back in. I’m ok with it.
This time, it took a few tries to get it right, but it honestly wasn’t difficult to get a recipe that tasted like the Caribbean rum cake I had in Bermuda. I modified one of my pound cake recipes, adding rum and a bit of dark brown sugar, then I soaked it in syrup.
I’m very happy with how this rum cake recipe turned out, and I think you will be as well!
- While you can technically substitute spiced rum, I highly recommend using dark rum for the best flavor. My first attempt used spiced rum, and the flavor was much more subtle; not what I remembered. I recommend Goslings or Bacardi Black Rum. Goslings Black Rum is what you’ll find in Bermuda rum cake, so that’s what I used. Most of the alcohol is cooked out of the cake, FYI. Only the flavor remains.
- I often using baking spray with flour in my recipes. With bundt cakes, I recommend using shortening and a light coating of flour. I’m not a fan of Crisco (and I know many of you aren’t, either). I love Nutiva Organic Shortening, which is non-hydrogenated. Unsalted butter will also work. Use a thin layer. Bundt cakes are all about the pretty shape, so you want to avoid excess moisture against the surface pan, or the golden exterior might get mushy and stick.
- Speaking of excess moisture, don’t leave the hot cake in the pan any longer than necessary for the same reason.
- As this is a typical pound cake, it’s not uncommon to deal with separation on the side that’s exposed to the heating element in your oven. Luckily, that’s the bottom of a bundt cake! The most common cause of this is over-mixing. Southern Living has some great tips on common pound cake mistakes to avoid. However, the cake will be fine if this happens, especially once it’s soaked in syrup. The crusty edge will soften, and no one will know.
Rum Cake From Scratch
For the cake:
- 14 ounces all-purpose flour (approximately 2 3/4 cup)
- 2 ounces dark brown sugar (1/4 cup packed)
- 3/4 ounce cornstarch (2 1/2 tablespoons)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 8 ounces sour cream
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup dark rum (I recommend Goslings or Bacardi Black Rum)
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 8 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
- 18 ounces granulated sugar (2 1/2 cups)
- 4 large eggs
- 2 large egg yolks
For the rum syrup:
- 2 1/2 ounces unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons dark rum, divided
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F. Place an oven rack in the center position. Lightly but thoroughly grease a 12-cup bundt pan (I recommend using shortening or butter), then dust the inside with flour and tap out the excess. Set aside.
- In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, cornstarch, kosher salt, and baking soda. In a separate medium-sized bowl, whisk together the sour cream, heavy cream, dark rum, and vanilla.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and granulated sugar together on medium-low speed for about 3-4 minutes, until the mixture starts looking less dense and more fluffy (this is a high sugar to butter ratio). Turn the mixer to high speed and cream for an additional 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides.
- With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs and yolks, one at a time, allowing each to incorporate before adding the next but without over-mixing. As soon as the egg has blended into the batter, move onto the next one. Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl a couple times during the process.
- With the mixer on medium-low speed, swiftly alternate between adding the dry and wet ingredients, starting and ending with the dry. This shouldn’t take more than 60 seconds total. Once the ingredients have been added, turn off the mixer and give a few good stirs with a spatula to make sure the ingredients are combined.
- Pour into the prepared bundt pan and level off the top with an offset or regular spatula. Bake for 1 hour 10 minutes, or until a skewer comes clean from the center.
- While the cake is baking, prepare the rum syrup. In a medium-sized saucepan, combine the butter, water, sugar, salt, 3/4 cup rum, and vanilla. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat while stirring periodically, then turn the heat to low and simmer for 6-8 minutes, until the syrup has thickened slightly. Remove from the heat and stir in 1 or 2 remaining tablespoons of rum to taste (depending on how aggressive you want the rum flavor in the cake to be). Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert to a wire rack to cool almost completely, around 45 minutes. While the cake is cooling, clean and dry the bundt pan.
- Once the cake has cooled, fit the clean bundt pan on top of it and then gently turn the cake back over and remove the wire rack. Briefly whisk the syrup incase any separation has occurred. Use a skewer to poke several holes in the cake, then slowly and evenly top with the rum syrup, pausing as needed so it can absorb into the cake. Let the syrup soak for 1 hour, then turn the cake out onto a stand for serving.
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